H.C. Powell has been likened to the Beeson of larger gauges, his work always being to the highest possible standards. He did not build many models.
'Hardwicke's' place in British railway history
LNWR No. 790, Hardwicke, was the most famous of the many 2-4-0 locomotives designed by Francis W. Webb of the London & North Western Railway. Entering service in 1892 towards the end of the building of 2-4-0 types, it could trace its ancestry back to the original 2-4-0s designed by Webb's predecessor, John Ramsbottom. But given that LNWR locomotives developed many of their most characteristic and familiar external lineaments at a very early stage and retained them for the rest of the company's lifetime, none more so than the 2-4-0 type, it can be rather difficult to sort them all out, so a brief resume of the development of the type may help to put Hardwicke itself into perspective.
The first Ramsbottom 2-4-0s to appear were in 1863, relatively small and with 6ft diameter coupled wheels. Generally known as Samsons (LNWR classes were quite regularly referred to by the name of the first example to appear), they were followed in 1866 by a slightly but not much more substantial version with larger cylinders and 6ft 6in. wheels. These were the Newtons and these two types established a regular LNWR practice of building more or less identical designs with two sizes of wheels, a practice which continued until the end of the nineteenth century.
At this point, a brief digression into quoted driving wheel diameters is called for. Unlike many railways which quoted wheel dimensions down to the last quarter-inch, the LNWR took a more pragmatic view and allowed for the fact that between overhauls, a wheel could reduce in diameter by as much as three inches or more as a result of tyre wear. In consequence, the company usually preferred to quote the wheel diameter at the sort of average value which it might expect to be midway between a set of brand new and a set of fully worn tyres. Thus a nominal 6ft wheel would probably be as much as 6ft 3in. diameter on new tyres and a 6ft 6in. wheel approaching 6ft 9in. in size. This accounts for many of the variations of quoted wheel diameter values in printed accounts of the LNWR 2-4-0s, which in turn gives the false impression that many different wheel sizes were in use. In fact, there were very few, of which the 6ft and 6ft 6in. variants were by far the most common.
At first, the Samsons and Newtons had no cabs, merely a weather shield, while on the Newtons, there was no coupling rod splasher either. Both types, however, had attractively proportioned radial slots in the main splasher sides. When Webb came on the scene in 1871 he continued to build Samsons and Newtons until 90 and 96 examples, respectively, were in service. However, he soon fitted a basic albeit genuine cab, along with coupling rod splashers on the Newtons and plain sided main splashers on all of them. Together with the plain Webb chimney, cast numberplates and a rapid standardisation on the famous lined Blackberry Black livery, it was not long before, wheel diameter excepted, they were more difficult to distinguish apart - at least externally.
When Webb himself introduced his own 2-4-0 designs in 1874, they were all but visual clones of the Samsons and Newtons in their later Webb configuration and externally very difficult to distinguish from the earlier modified Ramsbottom designs, save in one partial respect. In Webb's own smaller wheeled type, known as Precursors, he introduced a new 5ft 6in. diameter driving wheel (nearer 5ft 9in. when new - see above) which did not need a full coupling rod splasher, merely two small supplementary splashers on each side above the coupling rod bushes. These 40 engines lasted only 20 years before going out of the line of evolution, being replaced by 2-4-2 tank engines with 5ft 6in. driving wheels. Meantime, Webb's own larger wheeled 2-4-0s, the Precedents, retained the 6ft 6in. driving wheels of the earlier Newtons and looked much like them, albeit rather larger in overall bulk. It was the later examples from this group of 70 new 6ft 6in. locomotives which first attracted the unofficial but now very well known nickname Jumbo, soon to be applied more universally.
In 1887, Webb then embarked on a total renewal programme for the 166 Newtons and Precedents, all of them eventually being succeeded by brand new Improved Precedents, also 2-4-0s with 6ft 6in. wheels. Outwardly identical to the original Precedents but a little larger than the Newtons, they were much better engines, of which the preserved Hardwicke is one, and retained the numbers and names of the replaced Newtons and original Precedents, including the original dates on the nameplates themselves which were merely transferred without change to the new engines. Thus it is that Hardwicke, built in 1892, carries an 1873 date on its nameplate - that of the Newton which it had replaced.
To complete the story and from 1889 onwards, Webb similarly replaced the 90 Samsons with his own new 6ft version in which were incorporated all the improvements adopted in 1887 on the new 6ft 6in. engines. These were known as Whitworths (sometimes alternatively called Waterloos) but soon became, inevitably, Small Jumbos.
For their size, Webb's improved 2-4-0s (of either wheel diameter) were amazing engines, wherein lies Hardwicke's immortal claim to fame. Their characteristic and, from the front, very visible 'V' shaped steam chest below the smokebox allowed for a very short and easy passage of steam both into and out of the cylinders and this free-running capability allowed them to be thrashed unmercifully as loads got ever larger and speeds faster at a time when engine size did not rise proportionally quite as quickly. Add to that the fact that the Improved Precedents came into service coincidentally with an outburst of speed rivalry between the East and West Coast routes to Scotland (the so-called 'Railway Races to the North'), it is not too surprising that the still new Jumbos were destined to play a key role as far as the LNWR contribution (London to Carlisle) was concerned.
The first target in Summer 1888 was an improved time to Edinburgh which prompted the previously quite sedately paced LNWR to speed things up across the board - a well overdue improvement regardless of the racing. But in 1895, Aberdeen became the Scottish focus in consequence of the opening of the Forth Bridge which much improved the East Coast route and gave it a considerable distance advantage by way of bonus.
The LNWR and its West Coast partner in Scotland (the Caledonian Railway) took this threat seriously and the climax of what, in retrospect, can sometimes be seen to have been a reckless disregard of both safety and overnight scheduling on both routes, took place on the night of 22nd August 1895 when Hardwicke ran the 141 miles from Crewe to Carlisle (including the formidable ascents of Grayrigg and Shap banks on the fringes of the Lake District) in 126 minutes non-stop at an average speed of 67.6mph. This contribution to the whole journey enabled the West Coast to win the battle, Hardwicke's timing never being bettered by steam power until 1936, while the downhill speed from Shap Summit to Carlisle had to await electrification of the line in the 1970s before it was improved - and then only by a minute or so. The trailing load behind the 2-4-0 was, of course, moderate, but so too was the size of the engine and in purely power to weight terms, the ratio was not very different from that of our modern day trains.
From the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries, larger locomotives began to appear on all the British lines as loads and speeds continued to increase, but there were sufficient Jumbos in service to ensure their survival, albeit in gradually reducing numbers, until the last one was withdrawn from revenue service in 1934, with one or two more remaining in departmental use until 1936. Prior to this, and in a rare example of sentimentality on the part of the normally hard-nosed LMS, when Hardwicke itself was withdrawn as LMS No. 5031 in January 1932, a decision was made to preserve it as LNWR No.790 in full pre-1923 livery to commemorate that fine 1895 performance. As such it remains at the National Railway Museum to this day, whence it was returned to steam between 1975 and 1982, mainly to coincide with the Museum opening and Stockton & Darlington 150th anniversary in 1975, but also so that its seven year boiler certificate could allow it to take part in the later and equally well marked Liverpool and Manchester 150th celebrations at Rainhill during 1980.